Inventors of blue LEDs win Nobel Prize in physics

Their invention could help provide light to billions of people who still have no access to electricity

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Tuesday 07 October 2014


This year’s Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano from Japan and Shuji Nakamura from the USA for their invention of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which made it possible to make white LED lamps.

Though red and green diodes had been around for a long time, without blue light, white lamps could not have been made. Despite considerable efforts both in the scientific community and industry, the blue LED had remained a challenge for three decades.

The trio produced bright blue light beams from their semi-conductors in the early 1990s and triggered a fundamental transformation in lighting technology. These emit a bright white light, are long-lasting and energy-efficient.

They have high luminous flux (measured in lumen) per unit electrical input of power (measured in watt). The value is as high as 300 lm/W compared to 16 lm/W for regular light bulbs and less than 70 for fluorescent lamps.
LEDs last up to 100,000 hours, compared to 1,000 for incandescent bulbs and 10,000 hours for fluorescent lights. As LED lamps require less power, they can be powered by cheap local solar power and can help people who have not yet been connected to the grid.

Billions of people around the world have no access to electricity yet and are forced to mould their lives to natural light.

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